Carlisle United – Meeting The Opposition.

Carlisle United meeting the opposition.

Ahead of Tranmere’s trip to Brunton Park on Saturday afternoon, I spoke to someone with a great knowledge of Carlisle United in the form of UcLan student Ben Pitkeathly. 

The upcoming encounter is one that will ask much of either side due to the qualities that both sides possess, the Rovers are currently on a roll but the managerless hosts will want to impress.

How long have you been a Carlisle United supporter? How did you first come across the club? 

I have supported Carlisle since moving down from Aberdeen in 2007, I went to my first game not long after and have been hooked ever since. 

What are your best and worst experiences through following United?

The best experience following United has to be winning the Johnstone Paint Trophy at Wembley in 2011, with Peter Murphy scoring a volley. The worst experience was definitely Jack Stacey’s goal against us for Exeter City in the playoffs, it was a gut-wrenching feeling when that went in after coming back from two goals down.

Random fact about the club/the area?

Carlisle is the biggest city in England by landmass, 1,039.97 square kilometres.

We’re currently two months into the new campaign. However, what are your thoughts and expectations for the eight months ahead and how do they compare to those that you held at this stage last season?

Hopes are now for survival after a disastrous start, whereas at this point last season we were approaching our good run of form, which I cannot see us doing this season.

Something which happened very recently is the departure of manager Chris Beech. What were your thoughts on his dismissal and going forward, who would you like to see in the managerial seat?

No one likes to see someone lose their job but unfortunately for Chris Beech it has been in the offing for a while. Poor results and lack of a plan B has led to his dismissal. There were good times, saving us from relegation when he first arrived and a spell at the top of the table last January, but he’s been unable to stop the recent rut. I’d quite like to see Andy Morrison given the job after being very effective at Connah’s Quay, Zigor Aranalde is another who should be targeted having coached at a very high level and has brilliant contacts in the game.

Who are/is the current owner of United and what are your thoughts on them? Are there any existing off-field plans that are exciting supporters?

The less said the better really, we have three custodians who’ve been in charge for 13 years, but behind the scenes, a succession plan is supposedly being worked on so there is hope for the future.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Jon Mellish, who scored 16 times last season, is our biggest goal threat. Joe Riley has been our most impressive player this season, but his level of influence will depend on whether he plays right-back or central midfielder.

If we are to take a look at his summer transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the incomings and outgoings? Also, would you have wanted more to have happened?

Our recruitment was incredibly poor losing several first-team regulars and the replacements don’t seem to have the same quality or are yet to show it. Many would’ve liked to see a target man brought in as the strikers we have do not suit the managers direct style of play.

What do you think of Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their danger men?

I admire Tranmere and its fans standing independently and proudly away from the other clubs across the river. Callum McManaman stands out as a player who could cause problems for us and I’ve heard good reviews of Elliot Nevitt.

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming encounter at Brunton Park? 

Unfortunately, I can’t see anything but a loss for us. 3-0 Tranmere, Hawkes, Nevitt, Maynard.

‘Joe Riley has been our most impressive player this season, his level of influence depending on what position he plays in’

Thoughts on a betting documentary.

The Big Step’s thoughts on The Paul Merson Documentary.

As soon as Paul Merson’s documentary was released I couldn’t wait to watch it due to the significance of the subject it encaptures. I’d spoken to ‘The Big Step’ about gambling before but I wanted to find out exactly what the trouble is like through the eyes of an Arsenal great. I personally thought the documentary was enlightening and it touched on more than I could’ve asked it to. However, to hear more about the show and how it had been received by those with more knowledge than myself about the industry, I spoke to ‘The Big Step’ once again.

When the show first got media attention, when it was first announced that the show was going to be released, what were your thoughts and how important do you believe it is that attention is given to the problem of gambling?

Gambling with Lives (of which The Big Step is a part of) was contacted by the production company when the show was being planned, as they wanted to feature some of the families that we support and have bereaved by gambling-related suicide (referenced in question 5). From the off, we were confident that this programme was going to be a positive thing and look constructively at how the gambling industry operates. We were very pleased that it was given a prime time slot at 9pm too, which shows how important the issue is becoming.

With Paul Merson’s experience in the game, how significant do you believe that it is his voice that is speaking out on a topic as hard-hitting as this? Does it surprise you in some way that people of such sporting experience can be trapped in a world of sport betting and what surrounds that?

It’s really great that Paul has been so open about his experiences. His standing within the game makes him an important role model, so it’s really helpful that he’s been so candid about his experiences with addiction. It doesn’t surprise us at all that people in the sports world are affected by gambling disorder – as Paul mentioned in the programme, they are often far from home, with time and money on their hands and surrounded by a rampant betting culture.

Through watching the show, how interesting did you find certain aspects of it? For example, when they were showing the brain activity through a scan and it showed how engrossed Merson’s brain was to gambling in comparison to that of a healthy person who would be attracted to family bonding and nature. Was this a test that had ever crossed your mind before?

We thought the brain scan part was very interesting, but what really stuck with us was how the gambling industry cultivates and sustains addiction. In Matt Zarb-Cousin’s part, he explains how the industry hold all the data necessary to stop gambling addiction and harm, but instead of using it to help people, they use it to make more money and cause more harm. He also explained that 60% of the industry’s profits (£14bn plus a year) come from just 5% of gamblers. As Matt himself put it: “Your gambling addiction is their business model.”

Do you believe that anything was missing from the show that you may have wanted to be included in or do you think that the hour covered everything greatly? 

There was quite a bit of footage that was cut from the section near the end with the families, specifically talking about the language of addiction that we would have liked included. Language is very key in framing the debate. For example, ‘problem gambler’ (widely used term to refer to someone with gambling disorder) suggests that the problem is with the individual and that they are somehow faulty. Gambling addiction is a classified mental health disorder – called gambling disorder – and can affect anyone. It works in the industry’s favour to push the ‘problem gambler’ narrative, as it frames the debate as a few ‘weak’ people who have a problem with gambling, and deflects attention away from an industry that are deliberating, encouraging and sustaining addiction.

Paul Merson sat around a table with others talking about the way that gambling companies entice people to place money with them for a bet. What were your thoughts on the adverts that included music such as ‘Sweet Caroline’ etc to make it seem like you have to gamble to enjoy yourselves? What are your overall thoughts on gambling adverts?

The gambling industry makes a lot of money and they are very good at doing it. Sweet Caroline is a good example as the song was adopted by England fans during Euro 2020, which was obviously a good tournament for us, so Ladbrokes knew exactly what they were doing when they used it. They wanted to evoke those feelings of happiness and associate them with their brand. Much like smoking, gambling is a dangerous product that we believe shouldn’t be advertised. We don’t think gambling should be banned at all, but it needs to be subject to much tougher regulation, which would include banning advertising. Important to note that this won’t stop those who want to from gambling – I haven’t seen a cigarette advert in 20 years but I know where to buy them from. What it will do is stop gambling from permeating mainstream culture and ensure children don’t grow up thinking gambling is a normal, safe and fun activity.   

What were your thoughts on the company’s messages at the end of the show and do you believe that the Gambling Commission could do much more than they currently are? The Betting and Gambling Council said that they completely reject any suggestion that the industry targets vulnerable customers whilst William Hill stated that 20% of their advertising is about time-outs and how people can bet responsibly and safely.

Frankly, we thought these messages were insulting. It shows how out of touch the industry is and that they are unwilling to engage and acknowledge the harm they are causing. With regards to player controls and responsible gambling messages, there’s absolutely no evidence to show that these have any effect whatsoever, which is actually why they use them, as it sustains their profits. It demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of addiction too: someone who is addicted to anything is robbed of their ability to think and act rationally – it’s a bit like advertising heroin with a ‘please use responsibly’ message!

Where does the future of ‘The Big Step’ lie in terms of plans and projects that the group is currently completing or about to start? How could people find out more or get involved if they wanted to?

We’ve recently partnered with Dulwich Hamlet FC and held a walking event before their game last weekend, and then had a fantastic reception at the game itself. We’ll continue partnering with clubs and asking them to say no to gambling sponsorship money. For the latest news and content, keep an eye on our twitter (@the_bigstep).

‘For the latest news and content, keep an eye on our twitter, ‘@the_bigstep’

ColU – meeting the opposition.

Colchester United – meeting the opposition.

This Friday night, Tranmere will be aiming to extend their unbeaten home streak on the back of a 2-0 win at Salford City in midweek. However, they will have to get past a keeper in great form as ex-Rovers shot-stopper Shamal George returns to Merseyside. 

To understand more about Colchester United I spoke to @viewsontheu about a range of United topics, including their on and off pitch situations before taking a look at the upcoming encounter.

How long have you been a Colchester United supporter? How did you first come across the club? 

I remember my first game at the Old Wembley in 1998 at the age of 6, it was the Third Division playoff final, I guess I’d have to say that’s when my Col U fandom started. I’m born and raised in Colchester. My Dad is a big Col U fan so I’ve been around the club from a very early age. 

What are your best and worst experiences through following United? 

Best – When we finished 10th in the championship was unbelievable, we were in the playoff hunt for so long. But I’d go with the Carabao Cup run a few years ago, beating Palace and Spurs, then playing Man Utd at Old Trafford was amazing. 

Worst – Last season was pretty terrible, we were on the brink of going out of the football league for most of the season, before we rallied at the end. I’d also have to say the 2015/16 season when we were relegated from League 1, only winning 9 games and conceding 100 goals wasn’t fun to watch!

Random fact about the club/the area? 

Britain’s oldest recorded town, no matter what way you enter Colchester you’ll see a sign letting you know!

We’re currently two months into the new campaign. However, what are your thoughts and expectations for the eight months ahead and how do they compare to those that you held at this stage last season? 

Expectations for the start of the season for most U’s fans was that we were dark horses for the playoffs, 9 games in we certainly don’t look like that. Whilst we look defensively solid, goals win you games and we’ve only scored 7 in 9. We seemed to have flooded the team with players with great experience but all are in their mid 30’s, we look like a slow team that struggles to score and create. I don’t think this season will be as bad as last but I think it’s looking like a bottom half finish. Still a long way to go though!

Who is the current Colchester gaffer? What are your thoughts on him and the way he approaches games? 

Current gaffer is Hayden Mullins, it’s still early days in Mullins’ reign but it’s been pretty uninspiring. We had Paul Tisdale assist him towards the end of last year and we looked good. Tisdale left and I think it’s clear to see he was the main reason why we were playing well. In terms of approach we’ve tried a few formations, I don’t think Mullins knows his best formation or his best 11 and it shows on the pitch.

Who is the current owner of United and what are your thoughts on them? Are there any existing off-field plans that are exciting supporters? 

Current owner is Robbie Cowling, I think a lot of U’s fans would say they aren’t Cowling’s biggest fan. He deserves credit but only for what he’s done off the field, we’re financially a well run club, which when you see what happens to other clubs that’s always reassuring. However, since he’s been the owner, on the pitch the club has been in a slow decline. It used to be a great community club but it doesn’t feel that way anymore, we’re only averaging 2500 at home games which I think says it all. It’s also “jobs for the boys” at Col U under Cowling, we’ve got ex managers (who were awful) still at the club. One is head of recruitment and one director of football which is mind boggling. People will say to be careful what you wish for and they might be right. I’m not necessarily wanting Cowling out but it does need a shake up in terms of personnel and his on field decision making needs vast improvement.

Who are your key players and danger men? 

Our key players are our goalkeeper Shamal George and Brendan Wiredu. It’s George’s first year as the true number 1 and he’s been sensational, by far our best player so far this season. Wiredu is an all action midfield player, he does everything in there. He’s way too good for league 2, us U’s fans need to make the most of him as I don’t think he’ll be with us for long. As for danger men, we’re fairly toothless up front but in Alan Judge we have arguably one of the best players in the league. On his day he can create and score goals with ease, I’d also mention Noah Chilvers who has come through our academy. He’s a player that has the ability to come up with the magic required to win a game.

If we are to take a look at his summers transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the incomings and outgoings? Also, would you have wanted more to have happened? 

Our transfer recruitment was a short trip up the A12 to Portman Road to sign almost all of their released players. We signed 4 and have 1 on loan, they got mixed reviews. They’re good players with bags of experience which is great but also in their mid 30’s and all signed 2 year deals. They’ve been ok so far but we’ve always been a club that brings players through the academy or plucks a player from non-league or a player that has been released from higher up the division. It looks a much older side this year. We were desperate to sign a striker as we don’t really have that true number 9 but that didn’t happen and it shows so far this season how badly we need one!

What do you think of Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their danger men? 

Tranmere is a big club, with a good old school ground. Always well supported wherever they go, I remember the last time you were at our ground and you sang the tequila song for 90 minutes, it was great! As for your danger men, Nicky Maynard and Callum McManaman are good players for this division.

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming encounter at Prenton Park? 

I’ve got the nickname Mystic Max, I seem to do quite well when it comes to predictions. These are two teams who are defensively solid and don’t score a lot of goals. We’re much better away from home but Tranmere is a tough place to go, I’m going for a 1-1 draw.

‘Shamal George has been sensational since becoming our regular number one’. Shamal signed for Colchester in the summer of 2020, on a two year deal, following a loan spell at Tranmere in the 2018-19 season.

Rover and Out F.C, a conversation with Adam Siddorn.

If you take a look around Prenton Park or Merseyside in general. If you take a look at Tranmere supporter groups and have a chat to people who understand what the area stands for, or even if you understand what the majority of the modern world is all about then you will understand how key unity and a sense of belonging really is as more people choose to be and to behave with a greater sense of freedom.

This is something that Tranmere have done greatly over the past few years with the introduction of the Rover and Out team, bringing together those who could feel unaccepted in any other walk of life into being a part of a collective team and group. 

This summer, the group has branched out and there has been a new football team founded which reflects all of this. Thus, I spoke to Adam Siddorn who is the Rover and Out football manager to understand more about the team, their plans for the future and much more.

Could we open our conversation by you telling me a bit about the club? What was the search for players and a place to play like? 

It was quite difficult to start off with. We’re a branch off the Rover and Out supporter group and we basically started as a five-a-side team as we couldn’t get ten players but over time we put out invites for people to come down and train with us. It’s a really good group and its got people from all different backgrounds and genders. There’s an element of fun and competitiveness and we’ve gone from there to having a squad of over 15 different players to choose from.

Where are the games and where does the team train?

At the moment, we’re just moving to play on Friday nights at Solar Campus which is obviously Tranmere’s training ground. However, over the summer we’ve been playing at Birkenhead Park. We’ve so far had games in Chester, Wales, Liverpool, Ashville as well as being invited to international cup competitions up and down England even in Glasgow. This has given the squad the chance to have a good weekend away so a more enhanced social life as well as some football competitiveness.

You’re the manager of Wirral Radio’s football team and that is something you have great fun doing. However, what are the differences between that and Rover and Out? Also, what are the ideas that you want to project to the players?

It’s important that we don’t try to emulate what I’ve done with Wirral Radio as they’re a Sunday league team. Yes, we want some parts of it as in just doing things correctly and getting in the right people etc. However, we want to invite people of all different abilities and backgrounds to come down to this new team. I want this to be fun and I want this to be enjoyable. We’ve had someone aged 15 playing for us, we’ve had someone in their 50s playing for us and we’ve got a woman now who drives down from Manchester to access our club, from this she’s made a team in her area whilst commentating on the Women’s Premier League for a local radio station.

So would you say that the social aspect of this club means a little bit more than the results?

Well, obviously it’s nice to win but the social aspects are huge and we do our best to raise money for local charities when we have a game. Our chosen charity is the Martin Gallier Foundation in New Ferry, which is a suicide awareness charity. You’ve got to have a serious side but regardless of the level you’re playing at you need that social side, whether that be a night out or some time together and to add in raising some money for charity makes it even better.

In terms of challenges, if we can bring it back to your work with the Wirral Radio team. How does managing Wirral Radio compare to Rover and Out?

In terms of challenges they’re roughly the same but we have a range of abilities between those two squads. Something which I do though is get a player from the Radio team to come down to Rover and Out to train with them so they can learn, with no disrespect intended, from a higher quality player so they can potentially get better opportunities in the future. 

The games that Rover and Out have, are they in a league? Also, how would you describe the standard of opposition in comparison with your team?

We’ve been playing friendlies against teams such as the Chester Hospice Charity Team who have many Chester fans playing for them, we’ve made great friends there. We’re currently in negotiations to start a North West inclusion league which is very exciting. The standard is very mixed but there’s been many opportunities for games so far through various competitions, leagues or friendlies.

It sounds like you have many opportunities and pathways for the future, there is a lot of things that you can do going forwards.

Yeah there is. We’ve touched on the social side of things and the games that we’ve played so far but it’s also important to say that people have made friends for life within this team. Peter Case and Paul Davies, alongside myself, do a really good job of running the club and without them we’d be buggered but they’re men who maybe wouldn’t have the opportunities to run teams elsewhere.

If anyone is hearing about the Rover and Out football team for the first time through this interview and want to show their support in some way, how could they go about doing this?

Well that’s the thing, you don’t even need to play! We’ve got a fan who’s a Tranmere fan and comes to every game and comes for a pint afterwards. You can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Anyone is welcome down, to come and play or to come and watch and socialise. Come down and enjoy a bit of football, semi non-competitive football and be a part of a family.

‘It’s more than a football match, it’s more than a team and it’s more than a club. That’s what makes it so good’. You can find Rover and Out on Twitter @roverandout.

Crawley Town – Best and Worst.

The best and worst of ‘some’* Crawley Town subjects.

Ahead of the encounter between Tranmere Rovers and Crawley Town in League Two action this Saturday, I spoke to Stephen Dimmock about some of the best and worst moments, players and managers that he’s had the pleasure and displeasure of enduring.

Best team: GK- Glenn Morris, RB- Lewis Young, CB- Kyle McFadzean, CB- Jordan Tunnicliffe, LB- Nick Tsaroulla, RM- Sergio Torres, CM- Dannie Bulman, CM- Hope Akpan, LM- Billy Clarke, ST- Matt Tubbs, ST- Max Watters.

Best player: Matt Tubbs – Top scorer in 2010/11 season, absolute goal machine.

Worst player: Dominic Poleon – Had a decent reputation when first signed, but didn’t score many, wasn’t trying hard and mocked the club on social media.

Best moment/game: Penalty shootout win vs Stoke in 2019-20 League Cup.

Worst moment/game: 2015 relegation or loss v Colchester in 2019-20 League Cup.

Best haircut: Sergio Torres.

Worst Haircut: Jordan Tunnicliffe when he dyed it blonde in the summer, obviously trying to copy Phil Foden when he is a defender.

Best season: 2010/11 for promotion to the Football League and legendary cup run.

Worst season: 2014/15 (as it resulted in relegation) although 2015/16 and 2018/19 were close.

Best goal: Nick Tsaroulla vs Leeds in 2021.

Best kit: The away one in 2020/21, only time I’ve been tempted to buy one.

Worst kit: 2012-13 home, 2015-16 home and both of this season’s kits.

Best chant: Must admit I don’t think the chants are anything special or original, but one for Bez Lubala a couple of years ago was alright.

Best manager: Statistically Steve Evans but didn’t take to him much and to be honest most managers would have done well with the squad we had in the early 2010s. From my time I’d say John Yems but that’s mainly because all of the others have been rubbish.

Worst manager: Harry Kewell without a doubt (and we have had some bad managers in recent years). The guy thought he was much bigger than the club, had an argument with fans at Wycombe Wanderers and then two weeks into the second season ran off to Notts County. We cannot stand the bloke and seeing his managerial career tank has made me laugh.

Best cult hero: Sergio Torres, for late winner vs Derby in 2011 plus a great background story. Was also a core member of our team for the first few years as a league club and even had a film made about him a few years ago.

Best hard man: I’d say probably Kyle McFadzean, although we did have quite a few of them in that era seeing that Steve Evans was managing at the time. 

Worst hard man: Ashley Nadesan is trying to be one at the moment but is coming across as a League Two version of Granit Xhaka and many fans criticised him for his behavior vs Harrogate last week.

Matt Tubbs, Crawley Town striker between the years of 2010 and 2012, was an ‘absolute goal machine’.

An unsung hero – Mark Randles.

Throughout the past year and going even further back, the work that Tranmere Rovers’ trust and those volunteering elsewhere have done has been nothing short of exceptional. 

Delivering food to those in great need, giving support to those whom a pandemic has brought lonely and relatively vulnerable and ensuring that Prenton Park is as safe as ever for supporters to come back to and cheer on their beloved Whites.

Thus, It’s only right that this has gone noticed in the form of Mark Randles getting nominated for an unsung hero award. I caught up with the man himself to talk about his involvement at Rovers and to see how far back his support of the club goes, plus much more.

Hello Mark, just to start our conversation off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the time you’ve spent supporting Tranmere. When did you first start following the club, who were your first real Rovers stars and why did you make the decision to join the Trust Board circa 2006?

Hi Ethan, I was born and still live in Birkenhead, about 10 minutes walk to Prenton Park. My dad first brought me to Tranmere in 1967 or ‘68 for the opening of the main stand, I think it was against Northampton. My earliest memories of players I liked were Paul Crossley, Ken Beamish and Clive Allen.

I was approached to join the Trust about 15 years ago, by Ben Harrison. I can’t really remember why, but, I guess I just thought “why not”. So I joined.

Since you have been involved since 2006 you would have worked under the guidance of owners Peter Johnson and Mark/Nicola Palios. Touching on the Palios’, Tranmere’s current owners, how would you say that they’ve done their job of transforming the club in a more positive light?

Mark and Nicola have had a hard job of turning the club’s fortunes around. The first major problem was that the club always seemed to have losses of about £1 million year on year. In the days of Peter Johnson, the club would just turn to him and he would write a cheque to cover the losses. Once Mark and Nicola were on board this was the first thing they had to eliminate. As you can imagine, not an easy task. I think they soon realised that these losses couldn’t be turned around purely on matchday income. Savings had to be made throughout the whole business and money needed to be generated from other sources. This is why they dabbled with concerts, the Riverhill Hotel, etc, etc.

Unfortunately the pandemic and the demotion of the club back to league 2 hasn’t helped and has put the club backwards. I’m sure over the next 12 months or so, we’ll be back to where we should be. Promotion would be a massive boost.

In a quick message to me you stated that your role is Trust Secretary, for anyone that doesn’t know what that entails, what are some of your responsibilities and how important is your role to Tranmere amongst other clubs at this level?

As Trust Secretary, I like to think I’m the linchpin to the other board members. Most queries from Trust members come to me, I then delegate these to the relevant board member, whether it be a membership issue, or community issue. Even dealing with shares and the club. The role of Trust Secretary doesn’t have a direct effect on the club. Although I did represent the Trust for the last three years as an associate director on the club board, mainly to represent the Trust membership. As an associate director you have an insight to the full workings of the club, on a daily basis.

Something quite fun that you have had the opportunity to lead is the Fan park, as you have overseen the running of it for around five years. What has it been like to have this role and mix with fans in a range of good and bad times and what are your thoughts on the very interesting and picturesque new fan zone?

We (the Trust), were approached by the club, in the first season of the National League. At the time we were approached we looked at the fixtures and they weren’t the best, as we thought, for a “grand opening”. So we looked and saw we were going to play Chester in February, so said to the club we’d take it over from then. It was our thought that if we sold decent beers, at decent prices, had early kick off matches on a big screen and had enough staff, so customers could be served as quickly as possible and be served by fans. It worked. From day one we were busy and it took off so much that before long we realised the marquee wasn’t big enough, so we added another 30% to its size. We’ve re-built the bar, then extended it even bigger.

The one big issue we have is noise. We tried to hold a couple of parties, but ended up getting complaints from neighbours over the noise being generated. We therefore made a joint club and trust decision not to hold any events outside of match days. The other issue was that we are basically operating from a “Tent” and it will only have a certain lifespan. We therefore decided we needed a more permanent structure. We have had discussions with the club and architects and have come up with the design for Fan Park 2 (as we call it). As you say, a very exciting prospect. There are still a number of hurdles to get through, one being getting planning approval, but hopefully it won’t be too long, before we get this and we can move on to the construction stage.

Touching on your role through the past year, a year in which you’ve had to hold your role in a time of a global pandemic. What tasks have you completed that you maybe thought you’d never had to do and how would you describe the work that the club has done in the surrounding community and beyond?

I suppose the main thing that has been achieved during the pandemic is the procurement and delivery of the food parcels, to those in need. This has been done by working in conjunction with Tranmere in the Community.

It has been a very strange time. The club was basically mothballed, with most of the staff furloughed, or working shortened hours. As a Trust we carried on although all meetings were held via Zoom. We are now just about getting back to normal and it’s been great to see fans being able to get back into seeing live football.

The start of this summer’s work commenced with the re-appointment of Micky Mellon as manager, someone who beds into the message of the club and what it stands for perfectly. What are your thoughts on the team, the manager, his coaching staff and overall the club’s chances of success this summer?

I think the timing of Keith Hill’s departure and the release of Micky from his role at Dundee Utd, meant it was the perfect fit for him to come back. The only other manager I think we could maybe have gone for would have been Dave Challinor. Maybe that’s for another day? We know the coaching staff are well thought of by the fans.

We have made a slowish start to the season, but the last couple of results (Salford and Forest Green) have been encouraging. A couple of weeks ago, we would have probably thought we’d be looking at two defeats. But to come away with four points is good. Maybe now we can move on, move up the table and be challenging for promotion.

For anyone that wants to vote for you and are hearing about your work for the first time via our conversation, how much do you appreciate the votes of people and how would they go about doing it?

I must admit, I was completely shocked by the events of the last couple of days. I didn’t even know I had been nominated. At the end of the day it’s not about me, I’m just a cog in a bigger wheel. A big thanks must go to the other Trust board members and the staff in the Fan Park, including my wife Cathy and my daughters, as well as the other staff.

I’m not sure that you vote. I think the votes are for the player and manager awards. I think the likes of the unsung hero award is chosen by a panel.  

Mark Randles has been nominated for the ‘North West Football Awards’ unsung hero award. It has been a crazy year for everyone, it’s great to see that the work the Trust have done hasn’t gone unnoticed!

Marc Joyce – TRFC W manager.

Conservation with TRFC womens manager Marc Joyce.

Marc Joyce joined the club’s coaching system in April when he was appointed manager of the women’s team, much to the excitement of everyone who knew of his capabilities. Ahead of the new season, we sat down to talk to him about his coaching experiences and the upcoming campaign. 

Hello Marc, to start our conversation off, could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your coaching journey. Did you always want to be a football coach and how much work went into becoming a licenced coach in three countries: FA, FAW and US?
Good morning Ethan. I’ve been coaching for around 10 years now. The journey started in the UK at grassroots level working on my youth modules. Following that I was given the opportunity to work in the US which was a fantastic experience and one that provided me with the chance to work with some real high end talent. I spent 7 or so years there and learnt a lot along the way. Since returning to the UK in 2020 I’ve again had the opportunity to work with some top players at both Airbus in North Wales and more recently Tranmere”. 

It was announced in early April that you would become the new Tranmere women’s manager. When did the interest in you from the club begin, what were your initial thoughts and what was it like to have your hard work pay off when you finally landed the role?
It’s an exciting opportunity, the Tranmere one. It matched with some of my recent experiences. We’ll of course continue to focus on the development of players but being able to coach in a performance environment was something I was keen to get involved in”. 

We’ve touched on your coaching journey slightly in that initial question. However, how long have you had a coaching role in the women’s game in particular and especially with the news of Sky Sports showcasing the WSL games throughout the course of the season, do you think it’s something that will continue to rise in terms of interest?
My experiences of the women’s game prior to Tranmere were mostly in the US and throughout my time there. The US has a strong focus on that side of the game and we’ve seen them benefit from that with their domination at national level over the years. Football is football and whether it’s on the men’s side or the women’s the games are still the same. It’s great to see the women’s game here gaining more exposure at the top level and hopefully that’s something that filters through the leagues as opposed to it just being a break away top flight. 

I think I’ve the ability to be flexible and adapt to the groups I work with. One style might suit one group and not the other so I certainly don’t hang my hat on any specific ‘brand’ of football.
We want this team to be brave, creative and go and express themselves going forward.
Football is about relationships, so being able to communicate and build a group and environment that comes together to compete week in week out is my focus”.

We’re having our conversation in Mid August, when the U18s and the senior seasons have started. However, you will have to wait until September 4th for the women’s campaign to start. What approach do you take into friendlies that you probably wouldn’t when it comes to a league game and how would you say your side have played in the friendlies so far?
The friendlies have given us a different test every week. Different challenges / focus points for us to take into training and build on. They’re an extension of the training, we’re looking for performance and workrate at the moment as opposed to worrying about the overall outcome.
Watching the football league kick off this weekend and knowing we’ve still nearly a month before the league starts feels a little out of sync but we’re enjoying the build up, ensuring we’re getting healthy and fit for what’s around the corner and constantly assessing the players here and the players that have come in.
The league is something we’re certainly looking forward to”. 

Leaving a little bit of time left to place our thoughts on the upcoming campaign, what are your ambitions from a managerial perspective for the next ten months?
“It’ll be a competitive league, there’s no question about that. We want to do our utmost week in week out to win games of football. I’m sure there’ll be some lows and highs along the way and that’s football but we’ll be doing all we can to come out on top against everyone we come up against”.

Marc Joyce was appointed manager of the Tranmere women’s team in April 2021. The new season started on September 4th and they’ve made a blistering start to it! 

Photo taken by @BBsphotography

Crawley Town – meeting the opposition.

After picking up a great point on the road against Forest Green Rovers, a game which finished 0-0, Micky Mellon’s Tranmere are next in action against Crawley Town who have had a fairly successful start to the campaign themselves. 

Ahead of the League Two encounter at Prenton Park, I spoke to @WattReuben about all things Town, Tranmere and the upcoming game in general. He also told me about the experiences he’s had throughout the past ten years supporting the club.

How long have you been a Crawley Town supporter and how did you first come across the club?

I have been supporting them since February 2011, getting a love for the club when Crawley played Man Utd in the FA cup. 

What are your best and worst experiences supporting Town?

The best experience was probably us beating Leeds United last season, although we were all having to watch from home. In person, the best experience was probably beating Stoke or Norwich in the League Cup two seasons ago.

The worst experience was probably getting relegated from League 1.

Random fact about the club/the area?

We are one of a few Football League teams to have never played at either the old or new Wembley!

We’re currently two months into the 2021/22 campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations for the next eight months and how do they compare to those that you had at this stage of last season?

We had a poor start to the season, however, we, as a team, do seem to be finally starting to play some proper football and are a match for anyone. This week Gary Neville said that Crawley was the best team Salford has played this season. I should imagine we will be mid-table come the end. If we are lucky with injuries and January signings then we may have a small chance of scraping into the playoffs. Last campaign, like normal, we started well and towards the end started dwindling. Fingers crossed that that doesn’t happen again!

John Yems is the current Crawley manager. However, what are your thoughts on him and the way he approaches games from a tactical perspective?

I am sure you have seen in his interviews that he is like marmite in that you love him or you hate him. I personally love him, I think he is a proper old school manager. He doesn’t do it for the money, he does it ‘cos he loves football and loves Crawley. There are occasions where fans question his decisions, such as signing Mark Wright, but Yems wouldn’t do anything to hurt the club.

Who are the owners of the club? What are your thoughts on them and are there any current off field projects that are exciting fans?

We are owned by Ziya Eren, a Turkish businessman and steel magnate. We hear from him when things are going very well, we hear from him where things aren’t doing too great. 9 times out of 10 though, we don’t hear from him directly but via the CEO, Erdem Konyar. At the moment there aren’t any off field projects to be excited about. The main thing for the club is surviving. We have one of if not the lowest wage budgets in the football league and so we just want a surviving club at the end.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Nick Tsaroulla – A left back who is best known for his goal against Leeds United. He is both good defensively as well as a big threat going forward.

Tom Nichols – Our main striker who will quite happily get double figure goals this season.

If we are to take a look at the transfer recruitment the club were able to complete this summer, what are your thoughts on the incomings and outgoings? Also, would you have wanted anything more to have happened?

We have brought in a range of experience and youngsters. For example, signing players like Joel Lynch, Mark Marshall and Kwesi Appiah who have all had big league experience and are able to tutor and teach the youngsters. Crawley has and always will be a selling club. Buying young to then sell off in a few seasons. We have signed players like  Ludwig Francillette, Alex Battle and Owen Gallacher who I hope will be playing up the leagues in years to come.

What do you think of Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are there key men?

I don’t know loads about Tranmere apart from the incident with them being relegated due to Covid. You’re on my list of teams that I should imagine will be up fighting for the play offs and promotion. You have ex Crawley player Josh Dacres-Cogley who was immense for us and I am sure will make an impact for you. You also have some key players in Jay Spearing, Nicky Maynard and Liam Feeney.

Finishing our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming encounter?

I am really looking forward to this match and I am going to say 3 – 1 Crawley with Nichols, Appiah and Dallison scoring.

‘I’m sure you’ve probably seen it in his interviews, manager John Yems is a lot like marmite’. Yems was appointed Town manager in 2019, being described by many as an old school manager. 

FGR – meeting the opposition.

On Saturday, Tranmere travel South as they come up against Forest Green Rovers in what should be a clash between two sides looking for promotion at the end of the season.

There has been so many entertaining encounters between Rovers and the Green Army, most famously the 2017 National League Play Off Final in which the latter won 3-1. 

To hear about all things Forest Green, I spoke to @FGR_Alfie about what’s happening on and off the pitch. We also had some time to discuss how the ninety minutes may go on the day. 

How long have you been a Forest Green supporter and how did you first come across the club?

I’ve been a Forest Green Rovers fan for about 6-7 years. I first came across the club when a friend from school was an ambassador and I received free tickets for a game. From then on I’ve been going to the club nearly every week.

What are your best and worst experiences following the Green Army throughout this time?

Personally, I think the best experience I’ve had as a FGR fan is the promotion into League Two, which I’m sure many tranmere fans know about. On the other hand. I think one of the worst experiences was being around the top at Christmas one season then going on to win 2 in 23 games.

Random fact about the club/the area?

A random fact about the club is that we are the only professional vegan football club in the world, but I’m sure many know that already.

We’re currently a month into the 2021/22 campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations for the next ten months and how do they compare to those that you had this time last season?

I think we’ve got off to a brilliant start this season, better than any other. It’s very early to call, but as a guess I think we could get automatic promotion.

Who is the current Forest Green manager? What are your thoughts on him and how he normally approaches games from a tactical perspective?

The current manager is Rob Edwards. I think Rob has really revitalised and reconnected many fans at the club. It actually gets to the point where you look forward to a Saturday because you know you’re going to see exciting football and we challenge for a win more often. It’s a very possessive style of football that we play also.

Who are the owners of the club? What are most fans thoughts on them and are there any current off field projects that are exciting fans?

I’m sure many Tranmere fans will know the answer to this one, but the chairman of FGR is Dale Vince. I think the general population of our fans have a lot of time for Dale and are excited by the future. We’re planning on building a new stadium in the coming years which could be an exciting prospect.

Who are your key players and danger men?

I would personally say our key players or “danger men” so far this season are, Jamille Matt, Matty Stevens, Kane Wilson and Nicky Cadden. However, I think the majority of the team have a chance of being key. 

If we are to take a look at this summers transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the business that the club was able to make and would you have liked anything more to have happened?

Overall I’ve been fairly impressed by the recruitment this season, in particular the midfield area in signing Regan Hendry and Ben Stevenson. Again, I think these players have got off to a fantastic start and are very exciting prospects for the club.

What do you think of Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their key men?

I think Tranmere as a club are fairly respectable, obviously we’ve had plenty of banter with your fans over the last few years playing each other in the play offs etc, i’d like to be able to comment on who your danger men were, but i’m not 100% certain. I’ve read a bit about Elliot Nevitts journey from Warrington Rylands to Tranmere, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does. 

Score prediction for Saturday?

Not too sure what the score will be because the games between the two sides are always fairly unpredictable. But I’d like to say a 2-1 win for FGR.

‘Our current manager is Rob Edwards. I think he’s revitalised and reconnected so many fans at the club since his appointment’

Grimsby – Ownership transformation.

(This will be going into the Squires Gate programme for my National League piece).

In my initial National League article for the club’s matchday programme I spoke about the ownership changes that some clubs have undergone throughout the past few months. One of these being Grimsby Town as John Fenty was replaced by Jason Stockwood and Andrew Pettit who are looking to transform the atmosphere around Blundell Park, in turn getting the Mariners back to the Football League following their relegation after a devastating 2020/21 campaign.

I spoke to Grimsby supporter Aaron Rattray to get a fan’s perspective on the changes they’ve completed thus far, before they went on to beat Eastleigh 2-0 on Saturday afternoon.

First of all, what were your initial thoughts when the new owners came in and could you tell us a little bit about their business and sporting background?

I think everybody was very happy, relieved and excited when after what seemed an eternity John Fenty finally sold up, John Fenty has presided over the club during its darkest days and there was no light at the end of the tunnel under him, in fact the dark tunnel was getting even longer! John and his mates successfully managed to alienate over 90% of the fan base and the vast majority of fans can and will never forgive Fenty for the damage he caused the club. 

Jason Stockwood is a very successful businessman having held senior positions at, and Skyscanner, and more recently Simply Business, an insurance company in London, Jason has been voted the best boss to work for for 2 years in a row, which provides evidence he knows how to treat people unlike Fenty who only knew how to alienate people.

Andrew Pettit like Jason, is from Grimsby but made their name outside of Grimsby, Andrew is a founding partner of Revcap, a private equity real estate business, Neither of them has any sporting background and neither has claimed to be experts in sport, their approach is very much let Paul Hurst be in charge of the football stuff and they take care of the business away from football with the help of newly appointed CEO Debbie Cook.

What did you really want them to change and what have they changed in the first few months that they’ve been here? How has this impacted the atmosphere around the club?

The entire club needed a total reset from top to bottom, we had an amateur set-up with a ticketing system which was so far behind the times it was not fit for any purpose, we had a training ground which was basically a few porta cabins and a piece of grass which was never cared for, a rotten match day experience which was a bad experience more than anything, terrible food, terrible drink, literally everything to do with the club was rotten. The new owners has been in post for just 5 months but already in that time we have an up to date ticketing system on par with what other professional clubs offer, the training ground has been totally revamped and actually looks like a professional football club’s training ground now which it did not before, the match day experience is much better now with the introduction of a fan zone, and vastly improved catering facilities which are provided by local businesses on a rotational basis so you are guaranteed a different menu every match!

It was obviously gutting to be back in the National League. However, how important was it to have a successful summer to gain some positive momentum before the new campaign started?

It is always imperative to have a successful summer, especially after relegation, the new owners immediately set about making vast improvements, a few of which I have mentioned above. Within a week of them taking over we had a totally new board of directors with everybody who was part of Fenty’s board leaving. The deeply unpopular stadium manager Nick Dale who was also Fenty’s mate departed the club shortly after the takeover was complete, we have a new CEO and new COO on top of this, so it really is a total change off the pitch and on it! In the 3 home games so far, attendances have more than doubled from what they were pre-covid, evidence that the New owners has got the rest of the fanbase onside.

What was the new owners first summer of transfer recruitment like? Was there a lot that needed to be done and would you have liked much more to have happened?

We needed an entire change off the pitch and on the pitch, off the pitch I have already spoken about but on the pitch has been a summer of recruitment with Paul Hurst making 15 signings so far, and we still have the number 9 shirt vacant so more to come at some point!

In our last piece together, you told me about how much you’d like Paul Hurst to be given what he wants within reason. What are your thoughts on the new returning manager thus far and are you excited about the upcoming months? 

I have always thought that if he is given the tools to do the job then Paul Hurst will do the job, he got us promoted last time when Fenty was trying to hold him back, so what can he do now that he has greater backing from the new owners? he also achieved success at Shrewsbury, they were bottom of the league when he took over and he took them from bottom to mid table, and the following season he defied expectations and made the league 1 play off final. He then went onto Ipswich in the Championship where he was admittedly very much out of his depth, he then went on to a manage Scunthorpe who are in disarray, although he was sacked by Scunthorpe, the majority of Scunthorpe fans do believe he was harshly sacked. Now in the national league I do believe Hurst is more than capable of getting us back into the football league.

Currently Grimsby are in the top four and they’ve beaten good sides in the form of Wrexham and Torquay etc. What are your thoughts on the new squad and their footballing ability? Do you believe that it’s greatly important to have a good start and could you tell us a bit about the attitude of the players through games as they’ve now won three consecutive league games whilst conceding first?

If you look at many of the predictions from pundits and other fans alike you will see not many of them had Grimsby down as promotion contenders, most of them predicted mid table on the basis we have not made any “big” signings like Chesterfield, Wrexham and Stockport has, we have gone about our business quietly under the radar, which is how Hurst works, he quietly puts together a quality squad, Hurst’s teams has always been heavily focused on character and attitude, at the time of writing we have won 3 consecutive games despite falling behind in all of those games, evidence that the squad does have a lot of the character and never say die attitude Hurst prides himself on. Early days still of course but it is that attitude and character which has helped raise optimism and hopes among the fans, one hopes that this continues and let’s see if it can end up in promotion! I have no doubt Paul Hurst is more than capable of delivering that!

All in all, how much have the owners changed the club and do you believe there is a chance of a promotion back to the football league at first time of asking? 

I have spoken heavily about the changes on and off the pitch in the answers above, to put it simply, the club is totally unrecognisable now compared to what it was under Fenty. is Promotion achievable? yes of course it is!

And touching on the national league for a second, what clubs do you expect to be up there come May and who has been your standout opponents this far?

8, You would certainly expect to see Wrexham, Stockport, Chesterfield etc being up there judging by the money they have spent, but despite spending a fraction of what they have spent, why can’t we be up there also come the end of season?

Other National League results this weekend –

Bromley 2 Barnet 0, Halifax 3 Stockport 0, Notts County 1 Maidenhead 0, Solihull Moors 3 Boreham Wood 1, Torquay United 1 Southend United 0, Wealdstone 2 Aldershot Town 2, Wrexham 1 Dagenham 0, Yeovil Town 0 Chesterfield 2, Weymouth 1 Dover Athletic 1.